Beliefs have always been an important in understanding cultures from ancient times until today. This morning, I want to try and tell you about the ancient religions in India and Egypt and compare and contrast their belief systems. Both Hinduism and the ancient Egyptian religions are very old. The root of these beliefs are the human mind trying to understand the world and all that is in it. The Vedic Brahmanism is the ancient religion that later became Hinduism. There was worship of fire and rivers and a pantheon of nature gods who controlled wealth, health, and the number of children born. The Vedics tried to please the gods in order to obtain prosperity. The ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods and beliefs that the gods were present in and in control of nature. They, too, wanted wealth, health, prosperity and lots of offspring. The formal practice of religion revolved around the pharaoh whom they believed was human, but descended from the gods. Much treasure was spent on temples. This religion lasted for 3000 years and was a strong influence of many ancient and modern cultures.
This is Ganesha who is a very popular Hindu god today. He is lord of success, destroyer of evil and obstacles. Our bus driver had a statue of Ganesha and in the morning and evening burned incense to him, as he prayed for the god to overcome obstacles and provide a successful trip. Ganesha’s head is of an elephant and a body of a boy.
This is Hanuman the monkey god. He serves lord Rama and represents the bonds between master and servant. People pray to Hanuman for physical strength, perseverance and devotion.
In the Egyptian pantheon of gods, this is Anubis. He is the god of mummification, and the guide of the dead through the underworld. He has the head of a jackal and the body of a man.
This is Ra, of Egypt, the first sun god in mythology. He is the king of gods and creator of all things including mankind. It was believed he was born each morning, rising in the east, riding across the sky and disappearing into the underworld in the west each night effectively dying, to be reborn the next morning.
The ancient Gurjars worshiped the sun god in ancient India. We visited the temple of the sun god, Surya at Modera, just a bus ride away from Ahmedabad.
The Sun Temple of Modera is where at dawn, the sun god’s first rays enter the temple.
The two most striking comparisons are the river worship in both cultures. Hot, dry climates and much desert accentuate the need for water in both countries.
This is the Ganga or Ganges considered in Hinduism as the goddess of the holy Ganga. It is the holiest or most sacred river in any religion. Rituals performed there multiply blessings to the devotee, and cleansed him/her from sin. Dying near the Ganga leads to salvation of the departed and going directly to be with his/her ancestors. Check out my post on Varanasi which is the holiest of all Hindu cities. Prayers and bathing are done at sunrise on the ghats in Varanasi. We rode a boat in the early morning and saw the sunrise over the Ganga.
The Nile is the longest river in the world, 400 miles. It was a natural boundary, provided fresh water, transportation for travel and trade. Each spring the Nile flooded it banks with mountain water. This flooding provides rich black farming soil when the water receded. This process is called inundation and considered to be the gift of the Nile to Egypt. Without the Nile, Egypt would be a desert. In the Old Testament account of Moses and the Pharaoh, the king said that his people worshiped the river.
There are similarities of the faith systems of these two great countries in worship of nature, such as the sun, and the great rivers. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what future anthropologists will say about the faith systems of today and how it affects our beliefs and actions?